Photo: Madeline Whitehead
Readings and Lectures:
Publicity: Michael Goldsmith
The first reviews are in.
Publisher's Weekly says, "In powerful, precise prose, at once spellbinding and ferocious, the book follows Cora's incredible journey, step by step...The story is literature at its finest and history at its most barbaric. Would that this novel were required reading for every American citizen."
Kirkus Reviews says, "Imagine a runaway slave novel written with Joseph Heller's deadpan voice leasing both Frederick Douglass's grim realities and H.P. Lovecraft's rococo fantasies...and that's when you start to understand how startlingly original this book is...[Whitehead] is assuredly a writer of the first rank."
Dates and cities subject to change, but here's the preliminary lineup for the book tour this fall:
September 9-10: Bookmarks Festival, Winston-Salem NC
September 13: Chicago, IL
September 14: St. Louis, MO
September 15: San Francisco, CA
September 16: Los Angeles, CA
September 17: Seattle, WA
September 19: Dallas, TX
September 20: Nashville, TN
September 21: Atlanta, GA
September 22: Durham, NC
September 23-24: National Book Festival, Washington DC
September 26: Brooklyn, NY
September 27: Philadelphia, PA
September 28: Baltimore, MA
September 29: Washington DC
October 1: Morristown Book Festival, NJ
October 14-15: Boston Book Festival
October 20-21: Vancouver, Canada
October 24: Pittsburgh, PA
November 2, Iowa City, IA
November 3, Minneapolis, MN
November 4-5: Portland, OR
November 9, Toronto, Canada
November 18-19: Miami Book Fair
Here's the cover for the new book:
And from my publisher's description: "Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hellish for all slaves, but Cora is an outcast even among her fellow Africans, and she is coming into womanhood; even greater pain awaits. Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her of the Underground Railroad and they plot their escape." Things do not go as planned...
"Like Gulliver, Cora encounters different worlds on each leg of her journey...Whitehead brilliantly recreates the unique terrors of black life in pre-Civil War America. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman's ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage, and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share."
You can preorder it here.
The new book is called The Underground Railroad and it will be published September 2016. Entertainment Weekly has the brief outline. The protagonist is named Cora, and she sets out from Georgia.
More details as they arrive...
Countdown to excitement, indeed.
May 6th is the publication date. Am I coming to a town near you?
May 6: Greenlight Books, Brooklyn NY
May 8: Brown University Bookstore, Providence, RI
May 12: University Books, Seattle, WA
May 13: LA Public Library, Los Angeles, CA
May 15: Green Apple Books, San Francisco, CA
May 16: Book Passage, San Francisco, CA
May 19: Harvard Book Store, Cambridge, MA
May 20: Philadelphia Free Library, Philadelphia, PA
May 21: Prairie Lights, Iowa City, IA
May 27: Brazos Books, Houston, TX
May 28: BookPeople, Austin, TX
June 6: Left Bank Books, St. Louis, MO
June 7-8: Printer’s Row Book FestivalChicago, IL
As always, check the Events page for general info on appearances.
Well, it’s finished. My next book is called “The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky & Death” and it will be published by Doubleday in May of 2014. Non-fiction! You can pre-order it here:
It takes off from my journey to the World Series of Poker in 2011. You can read the first section here. (The other parts of the original story will re-appear in the book.) Much thanks to Grantland for sending me there.
Zone One is available in paperback at your favorite paperback purveyor, and I am back to work.
I wrote A Psychotronic Childhood for the New Yorker, and covered the Olympics for Grantland in a piece called Hard Times in the Uncanny Valley. Also offered not very helpful tips on how to write in a New York Times piece called How to Write.
Treat yourself to something nice. Check the Events page for places I’ll be. See you later!
Zone One came out!
Spent most of the summer in training for and writing about the World Series of Poker. Click and see!
In Zone One news, October 18th is the official pub date. Here is a film festival to get you up to speed.
The first section of the book is here on Scribd.com
And there have been some kind & early & starred reviews:
Publishers Weekly says: “Whitehead dumpster dives genre tropes, using what he wants and leaving the rest to rot, turning what could have been another zombie-pocalypse gore-fest into the kind of smart, funny, pop culture–filled tale that would make George Romero proud.”
Kirkus is also nice, saying: “[H]e sinks his teeth into a popular format and emerges with a literary feast, producing his most compulsively readable work to date. Though there’s enough chomp-and-spurt gorefest to satiate fans of the format, Whitehead transforms the zombie novel into an allegory of contemporary Manhattan (and, by extension, America)...”
And Booklist says that “This diabolically smart, covertly sensitive, ruminative, and witty zombie nightmare prods us to think about how we dehumanize others, how society tramples and consumes individuals, how flimsy our notions of law and order are, and how easily deluded and profoundly vulnerable humankind is. A deft, wily, and unnerving blend of pulse-elevating action and sniper-precise satire.”
Am I coming to your city? The book tour is here. And here are some places where you can pre-order a copy:
Advance copies are out in the wild. A few things:
If you are hung up on labels, yes, the book is “another genre outing” for me. Zone One is a zombie novel in the way The Intuitionist is a detective novel.
My childhood tutelage in the apocalypse came from movies, as opposed to books. A film festival covering the master texts for Zone One would screen the following (1956-1985):
The first Romero Trilogy (Sane Black Man Vs. The Crazy White People)
John Carpenter’s Urban Blight (Assault on Precinct 13, Escape From New York)
Heston as Last White Guy on Earth (Planet of the Apes, Omega Man, Soylent Green)
S.A.V.’s - Sick Armored Vehicles (Damnation Alley, The Road Warrior)
My Lover, My Monster (Invasion of the Body Snatchers 1956, 1978)
Mr. Dan O’Bannon (Alien, Return of the Living Dead)
‘70s NY as Crucible of the Soul (Dog Day Afternoon, Taxi Driver, The Warriors, et al.)
Are they trendy fast or classic slow? I like my zombies like I like my women: slow and implacable.
Harper’s is running an excerpt in their July/August issue.
You can pre-order a copy at your favorite store.
I wrote a piece for Publisher’s Weekly about internet distraction/wretchedness.
I did this unlikely thing for Vogue. Weird!
Catch you in a few months. As always, you can find me at @colsonwhitehead.
As far as I can tell from google, the first ones to make a “Post Apocalyptic Stress Disorder” joke are a band called Cold War Survivor.
We probably use it differently.
The new book is done. It is called “Zone One” and will be published this fall. October 18th.
If “Zone One” were three songs that came out between 1977-1992, it would be Wire’s “Reuters,” Leonard Cohen’s “The Future” and Joy Division’s “Decades.”
More details to come...
I love that “fresh decade” feeling.
Trying to get work done. On you know, books.
My last apparition was this op ed about “post-raciality.”
And before that, I gave advice on what to write next.
May Beezlebub be with you.
The book is out and has been given the treatment. As long as I’m in that narrow sweet spot between pre-publication anxiety and post-publication depression, I might as well update the site. So here we go with a lot of nice reviews -- thank you, burnt offerings to Beelzebub!
It makes the cover of the New York Times Book Review: “Whitehead’s delicious language and sarcastic, clever voice fit this teenager who’s slowly constructing himself...It’s an inner monologue, a collection of stories about a classic teenage summer where there’s some cool stuff and some tedium and Benji grows in minute ways he can’t yet see.”
Ron Charles in The Washington Post is really great: “Detailing the life of a dorky teenager in a community that's peculiar but oddly familiar, ‘Sag Harbor’ is a kind of black ‘Brighton Beach Memoirs,’ but it's spiced with the anxieties of being African American in a culture determined to dictate what that means...The novel's eight chapters are, in effect, masterful short stories, deceptively desultory as they riff on the essential quests of teenage boys: BB guns, nude beaches, beer and, above all, the elusive secret to fitting in.”
A profile in the New York Times by Charles McGrath contains the single best photograph ever taken of me. (It is not a closeup, obviously.)
In the daily New York Times Janet Maslin says that “When this book’s range encompasses kids, parents, community, tradition and history simultaneously, Mr. Whitehead’s recovered memories don’t seem so trivial after all.”
Adam Mansbach in the Boston Globe gets it: “It is Whitehead's most enjoyable book - warm and funny, carefully observed, and beautifully written, studded with small moments of pain and epiphany. It is sometimes possible to tell that a writer is enjoying himself, or that he isn't. Here, finally, Whitehead seems to be having the time of his life.” Thanks, man.
Radhika Jones in Time Magazine says: “Whitehead has tapped the most classic summer-novel activity of all: nostalgia. It doesn't matter if nothing much happens in Sag Harbor, if in all the boys' games with BB guns no one actually loses an eye. The pleasure is in the way Whitehead recalls it, in loving and lingering detail.”
In Newsday, Gene Seymour tells you to “Imagine a younger version of Bill Cosby, only more lyrical and far racier, with added literary and sociocultural references at his disposal and a greater familiarity with what the book terms "the insistent gray muck that was pop culture" as it seeped through the '80s.”
The Village Voice, my alma mater, does a brainscan on me, and it’s quite pleasant: “All of Whitehead's previous books were various degrees of funny, and Sag Harbor is funnier than all three combined...Sag Harbor's milieu will be recognizable to anyone who was half-sentient during Reagan's two endless terms.”
In the San Francisco Chronicle, Cheston Knapp says, “[J]ust as Benji is in the process of remaking himself, one gets the feeling after reading ‘Sag Harbor’ that Whitehead is taking his first artistic steps away from what has come to be expected from ‘Colson Whitehead.’ And it's safe to say, we're happy, and very lucky, to have both the who he was and the who he'll become out there, telling us like it is.”
Jane Ciabattari, author of an earlier article on the book, writes in the Barnes & Noble Review: “Sag Harbor is an infectiously entertaining novel. Will Whitehead continue in this new, lighter comic vein? I suspect not. With its glowing and affectionate portrait of a more innocent time, Sag Harbor has the feel of lightning in a bottle.” Eh, you never know.
Marie Mockett talks with me for the very excellent Maud Newton blog, and what happens is very nice.
And from last week:
A fun interview with TimeOut New York: “Fans of Whitehead's deeply funny and imaginative novels The Intuitionist, John Henry Days and Apex Hides the Hurt—rife as they are with satirical wit and sterling prose—won't be disappointed. But here too is the personal touch of a writer looking back and finding the past still very much alive.”
And a nice Bloomberg write-up: “He can write sentences like nobody’s business, and the deepest satisfaction in this book full of them is his crafty turn of phrase.”
Well, isn’t that a fine howdy-do.
As ever, check out the Sag Harbor page for the latest info.
Check the Events page for tour info.
And check out my Twitter feed for excruciating minutiae.